Epidemiological characteristics of subsyndromal depression in late life

Dae Jong Oh, Ji Won Han, Tae Hui Kim, Kyung Phil Kwak, Bong Jo Kim, Shin Gyeom Kim, Jeong Lan Kim, Seok Woo Moon, Joon Hyuk Park, Seung Ho Ryu, Jong Chul Youn, Dong Young Lee, Dong Woo Lee, Seok Bum Lee, Jung Jae Lee, Jin Hyeong Jhoo, Ki Woong Kim

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Objectives: Subsyndromal depression is prevalent and associated with poor outcomes in late life, but its epidemiological characteristics have barely been investigated. The aim of this prospective cohort study is to compare the prevalence, incidence and risk factors of subsyndromal depression with those of syndromal depression including major and minor depressive disorders in community-dwelling elderly individuals. Methods: In a nationwide community-based study of randomly sampled Korean elderly population aged 60 years or older (N = 6640), depression was assessed with standardized diagnostic interviews. At baseline and at 2-year and 4-year follow-ups, the authors diagnosed subsyndromal depression by the operational criteria and syndromal depression by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) diagnostic criteria. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify the risk factors for incident depression. Results: The age- and gender-adjusted prevalence rate of subsyndromal depression was 9.24% (95% confidence interval = [8.54, 9.93]), which was 2.4-fold higher than that of syndromal depression. The incidence rate of subsyndromal depression was 21.70 per 1000 person-years (95% confidence interval = [19.29, 24.12]), which was fivefold higher than that of syndromal depression. The prevalence to incidence ratio of subsyndromal depression was about half that of syndromal depression. The risk for subsyndromal depression was associated with female gender, low socioeconomic status, poor social support and poor sleep quality, while that of syndromal depression was associated with old age and less exercise. Conclusion: Subsyndromal depression should be validated as a clinical diagnostic entity, at least in late life, since it has epidemiological characteristics different from those of syndromal depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-158
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Depression
  • epidemiology
  • geriatric psychiatry
  • incidence
  • risk factors

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    Oh, D. J., Han, J. W., Kim, T. H., Kwak, K. P., Kim, B. J., Kim, S. G., Kim, J. L., Moon, S. W., Park, J. H., Ryu, S. H., Youn, J. C., Lee, D. Y., Lee, D. W., Lee, S. B., Lee, J. J., Jhoo, J. H., & Kim, K. W. (2020). Epidemiological characteristics of subsyndromal depression in late life. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 54(2), 150-158. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867419879242